©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” rolls southwest Sunday to Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino where Firing Line will go to the starting gate as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 13th running of the Sunland Derby (G3). Post time is 7:40 p.m. ET.
Firing Line comes into this race with a 1-3-0 record in four starts for trainer Simon Callaghan including two second-place finishes to Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).
Currently, Firing Line is ranked 27th with eight points in Kentucky Derby point standings and a win in the Sunland Derby (G3) will secure him a spot in the Derby starting gate.
It remains to be seen if Firing Line can step up to win his first stakes race. But he’s been running against the likes of Dortmund, ranked third in point standings, and Mr. Z, ranked 14th, and he looms as the horse to beat.
One horse I like and who could, perhaps, pull off the upset is Where’s the Moon (6-1) who comes into this race with a nice win in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park on February 21. Here’s the chart call and video:
WHERE'S THE MOON stalked the pace with good early speed while three and four wide, rallied on the far turn and dueled into the stretch, drew off late while fully extended.
The fractional splits in that race were very comparable to what Firing Line has ran in his previous races and the final time of 1:42.80 is just a few ticks shy of the 1:42.20 time of the Robert B. Lewis.
In addition the breeding of Where’s the Moon, by Malibu Moon out of a Storm Cat mare, Aldiza, is one of the best pedigrees in this field and his tail-female line is the same as Far From Over who was one of my long shot picks in the Withers Stakes (G3). Aldiza, the dam of Where’s the Moon, is the second dam of Far From Over.
I look for Where’s the Moon to run a good race.
Dirt Monster (12-1) also flashed good speed in his last race, finishing third to Where’s the Moon in the Mine That Bird Derby. In seven starts, Dirt Monster has never finished worse than third and he comes into this race with a 2-2-3 record for trainer Justin Evans.
Since the Derby, Dirt Monster has been training well at Sunland Park and regular rider Ry Eikleberry retains the mount. I look for Dirt Monster to run another good race.
Honorable mention goes to Malibu Mogul (15-1) and Why Two (8-1) who looks like they could round out the exotics.
Lord Nelson was entered in this race as the 3-1 morning line, second choice, but trainer Bob Baffert has withdrawn him from contention.
The Sunland Derby (G3) is part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races. Winners in those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red had returned to training but was recently taken off of the Derby Trail due to a lingering issue with a foot abscess.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 75, John Terranova II, $620,792
2. International Star, 71, Mike Maker, $490,979
3. Dortmund, 70, Bob Baffert, $630,000
4. Carpe Diem, 64, Todd Pletcher, $870,000
5. American Pharoah, 60, Bob Baffert, $810,000
6. Itsaknockout, 50, Todd Pletcher, $240,500
7. Upstart, 36, Rick Violette Jr., $615,680
8. War Story, 24, Tom Amoss, $120,000
9. Far Right, 22, Ron Moquett, $385,906
10. Madefromlucky, 20, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
11. Ami’s Flatter, 20, Josie Carroll, $99,200
12. Prospect Park, 20, Cliff Sise, Jr., $80,000
*Tiz Shea D, 20, Bill Mott, $80,000
13. Bold Conquest, 17, Steve Asmussen, $162,176
14. Mr. Z, 14, D. Wayne Lukas, $518,326
15. Frosted, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $176,200
16. Classy Class, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $85,000
17. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
18. Keen Ice, 12, Dale Romans, $106,520
19. The Truth Or Else, 11, Kenny McPeek, $173,500
20. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,250
*Tiz Shea D is not nominated to the Kentucky Derby.